You may have not heard about Highclere Castle, but you must know its another name – Downton Abbey. With the global hit of the new Downton Abbey film, this dignified and elegant castle is back in the spotlight. Today let’s take a home tour of Highclere Castle to approach the real life of “the Crawley family”.
Located in Hampshire, England, the 100,000-square-feet Highclere Castle is the classic sample of Jacobethan style created by famed architect Charles Barry, who is best known for his role in the rebuilding of the House of Parliament in London. Barry rebuilt Highclere Castle with Gothic style, changing the unadorned Highclere Mansion into the magnificent Highclere Castle. The castle shares a very similar silhouette to the House of Parliament, intricate construction and tall and straight.
Jacobethan architectural style is the mixed Renaissance revival style that was popular in the first half of the 19th century in England. Featuring lighter stone trims around windows and doors, steep roof gables and occasionally turrets or towers, the compound term implies that this mode is a blend of Jacobean and Elizabethan architecture.
Once come into the castle, you will be amazed by the Saloon. It is physically and socially the heart of the house, perfect for entertaining up to 150 people. It was designed in a gothic style with rich decoration. The exquisitely carved ceiling is 50 feet high and all surrounding walls are covered by Spanish embossed and gilded leather.
There are four oak spiral staircases in each corner of the Saloon, which took one year to be carved by hand. You can find the familiar one that is often in spotlight in Downton Abbey, feeling that Lady Mary is walking down the stairs.
The double library is also one of the most famous scenes in Downton Abbey. The palatial colors and decorations quite resemble the style of the Reform Club in London. There are over 5650 books, the earliest dating from the 16th century. It was used by the 4th Earl of Carnarvon as a “withdrawing” room, and this function was retained by the current homeowner – the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. It is a focal meeting point for drinks and conversations both before and after lunch and dinner.
There are over 300 rooms and 350 crystal chandeliers in Highclere Castle. Each room was opulently decorated and furnished, with each detail providing a unique insight into its history and legend. Visitors to the Castle are able to look around some of the 12 bedrooms off the first-floor gallery of the Castle. Other bedrooms are now offices, with a further 40 to 50 rooms on the second and third floors, some of which are used by the family today. Many of these have been or are in the process of being refurbished by Lady Carnarvon, using prints and drawings from the archives.
Mercia bedroom is noted for the charming four-poster bed decorated with 18th-century silks and matching furniture.
Gardens lying around the Castle were designed by the famed landscape architect Lancelot Brown, who was nicknamed “Capability Brown” because of his well-known saying “It has great capabilities”.
Brown designed over 170 parks in Britain during his whole life, many of which still endure. Fundamentally different from the formal gardens of England, Brown’s landscapes were designed in simple harmonious patterns with more naturalistic compositions and without obvious symmetry. His landscapes were at the forefront of fashion, a “gardenless” form of landscape gardening, which swept away almost all the remnants of previous formally patterned styles.